Happy Birthday, Jane Freilicher!

Jane Freilicher. Photo courtesy of Hamptons Art Hub.

On November 29, 1924, artist Jane Freilicher was born.  Freilicher was a member of the New York School, “an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians active in the 1950s and 1960s in New York City.”  She was also a long-time Village resident and has even included her own recollections about her life in the neighborhood and connection to the Village art scene in GVSHP’s own “Greenwich Village Stories.”

Frielicher was born in Brooklyn as Jane Niederhoffer, to parents Martin, a linguist, and Bertha, a musician.  She enjoyed painting and drawing as a young child and thought “I might do something in art, not for fame or achievement, but out of a romantic inclination to beautiful things. A free-floating feeling that something was creative in me.” At 17 she graduated from high school and eloped with Jack Freilicher, a jazz pianist; their marriage was annulled in 1946.  She completed her BA from Brooklyn College in 1947, and a masters from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1948.

Through her first husband, she was introduced to Hans Hofmann, an Abstract Expressionist painter who kept a studio on 8th St.

Everyone who was anyone in the art world during the late 1940s seemed to study with Hans Hofmann.  His school was right above a movie house on 8th Street near Sixth Avenue.  It was one floor up and that’s where the classes took place every morning.  We drew from a model most of the time.  Students from all over the country came to study there, including a hardcore group of young painters like myself.  Hofmann was charismatic and funny.  He was the guru.”

Freilicher over the course of her life lived in many different locations throughout the Village.

“I first lived in a modest apartment way over in the East Village on 11th Street, where I painted views from my windows.  After I married Joe Hazan, we bought 16 W. 11th St.-a house just off Fifth Avenue, built in 1845- from the Sullivan Damily, who had owned the house since 1883.  When our daughter Lizzie was born, we moved to an apartment nearby, but kept the house and rented it out.”

Jane Freilicher, Twelfth Street and Beyond, 1976, oil on linen, 50 by 60 inches (courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York)

Unfortunately for Freilicher, in 1970 her home was damaged with the explosion of 18 W. 11th St. as a result of the property being used by the Weather Underground as a bomb-making factory.  Though the City had condemned the property, Freilicher and her husband fought hard to preserve and rebuild, eventually succeeding.

“We succeeded and rebuilt the house.  Whatever needed to be done was done.  We restored the exterior and saved the interior.”

To Freilicher, the Village was not just a home but a place that both soothed and inspired her.

“I feel comfortable in the Village.  I have lived in my apartment on Fifth Avenue and 12th Street since 1965.  It has a great studio-an old greenhouse-with views more or less in every direction.  I have painted these views for years, never tiring of them.”

Sadly, Jane passed away in late 2014. If you would like to read more of Freilicher’s Village story, and the other contributions to our book, you can pick up a copy of Greenwich Village Stories here.

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Matthew Morowitz